The day I got fired from Dunya News

Published: December 25, 2010

My husband and I were fired without any prior warning.

According to a BBC Urdu report, nearly 300 journalists have lost their jobs in 2010. Yesterday, my husband and I became a part of this statistic.

Our contracts were terminated without warning and without notice and the reason given to us was that the company was being “restructured” and according to the new model our posts had been dissolved.

While the financial crisis has led to constant downsizing, money is not the only reason for heartlessly firing trusted old employees. In most cases, simple structural changes spell disasters for middle tier staff.

Of course, no one expects something like this to happen. I certainly didn’t.

The day I was fired

Clueless, I walked into my office, logged in to my computer, recorded a voice over, checked a script and was called by my bureau chief to his office.

I was told the Dunya News head office had decided they do not need package or field producers in bureaus, so it was the end of the line for both me and my husband. I texted my husband to ask where he was. He replied saying he was on an assignment.

“Baby, we are both being fired.”

“So,” he asked. “I don’t need to complete this assignment anymore?”

I waited and tried to act normal. Someone asked me to check their script and I didn’t know how to say that it wasn’t my job anymore.

I had worked hard and always made sure I delivered. I knew I had made a difference to my team. But I had been fired. I could feel it like a slap in the face.

When my husband returned, we were called to the human resource department. The HR guy looked so uncomfortable that I almost felt sorry for him. “The bureau didn’t know why it had happened,” he told us.  ”The decision came directly from the head office.” He said he knew how hard we worked and realized that this decision was unfair.

However unfair, the decision had been made and they had to follow it through. He gave me a letter, a termination of my contract, and I signed it. He gave me a list of things I was supposed to return.

I went back to the newsroom, downcast, telling myself not to breakdown, because I am a professional, that it is “their loss” and all that jazz. As I looked at everyone else I wondered how exactly I was going to break this news to people. I didn’t know so I went back to HR to finish with the official stuff.

Office ID – check

Fleet card – check

Health card – check

SIM – check

I signed the documents before the HR guy did and was told that my dues would be cleared soon.

I went back to the newsroom again without any option but to break the news to my colleagues.

I went to my PC and asked the reporter who was using it to log off for a minute so I could clear my data. He asked why and I said “My contract has been terminated.”

What?she exclaimed. I shrugged, unable to come up with a response.

I went to the washroom, looked myself in the eye and said to myself “Do not make this an ego issue. Just don’t.”

But an ego issue it is; people will find out. Everyone will know and they’ll think we were fired because we deserved to be fired.

I know that isn’t true, but I was too proud to go out and say I did not deserve this. As I thought about both my and my husband’s futures I began to hyperventilate. I tried to focus but I couldn’t. So I did what I shouldn’t have – I cried.

Farewell to friends

My (former) team gathered around me and told me “it’s the company’s loss.”  I nodded and didn’t say much. I cleared the drives on my desktop, transferred my data and got ready to leave. People stood around me, non-linear editors, cameramen, reporters, all looked shocked and genuinely grieved.  Words of advice and praise were offered but I did not know how to respond. So, I smiled through my tears and started to leave. But my team didn’t like the idea of letting me go without a bang.

My colleagues asked my husband and I to stay while they ordered cake. We cut the cake while the team gathered around us and clapped, I stopping briefly to wonder what exactly they were clapping about. Some colleagues made dark predictions about the future of the channel.

I laughed as I remembered previous cakes and celebrations – my first wedding anniversary, right in the middle of the launch rush, my birthday, my second wedding anniversary and another birthday. Dunya News’ birthdays.

When my husband cut his cake, I clapped along.

After all, that’s what you do at the end of an innings well-played.

I know I am not alone

Media groups are owned by tycoons and seths and the journalistic ethic they most value is how to make money. Since the industry is small and shrinking, journalists are vulnerable and unable to speak against wrongs done to them. Since nobody highlights the ills within the industry, it is often ruthless and persistently so.

Geo’s downsizing was a shock to the industry; Geo English was shelved and the first major wave of downsizing started. And of course, once something starts, it usually continues. Other channels got rid of entire teams. Dawn, ARY, Express News and Aaj have all been guilty of axing employees without warning.

I protest – not just against the administration that did this to me, but also against a system that allows journalists to be exploited like this time and time again. I protest against this system that cares only for legal obligations and says nothing about moral responsibility. I protest against the mentality that makes senior journalists think that they should be allowed to play God and wreck everyone’s careers just so they can cater to their own whims.

Yesterday, I realised that it is possible to get fired without a reason. And if you are in the media, nobody but the media fraternity will know about it.

sadaf.khan

Sadaf Khan

A broadcast journalist based in Islamabad who was formerly associated with Geo News and Dunya News. She blogs at ibteda.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.bonfriends.org Marina Khan

    It is how things work in practical life. This is materialistic society, if you are not good enough for money making in company, you will be fired. No one fires anyone without seeing the productivity graph of the employee.Recommend

  • Junaid

    keep up the good work! keep blogging and reporting the truth!Recommend

  • aman

    Sadaf the way you had been treated by ur employer is such a ruthless act, but i am sure that u r a such a proficient and intelligent girl, u will get the another gud job soon.Best of Luck fro u and ur Husband Recommend

  • kalim

    i dont have any sympathies for you because the media today is absolutely sick. you are one of the Dr. Frankestines. i hope you have received your reward for flashing sensational, moulded, driven breaking news ha ha ha.Recommend

  • Ajaz

    We just look at the immidate effects of everything happens to us, but God know what are the longer results of all these happanings in our life. I Gaurantee that something better is to happen in your life which you dont know because everything happens for the best.Recommend

  • http://www.noor-ul-ainhanif.blogspot.com Noor-ul-ain Hanif

    its like owner or boss have heart of stone. A person has given his years to the organization but at the end what he gets?only the four words FIRED!!Recommend

  • Syed Adeel Ahmed

    I share your grief and pain of being terminated from your job and that too so unceremoniously and unexpectedly. Well, this is the real face of these unscrupulous media barons. I just wonder that they claim to act as the mirror of the society so unabashedly, but there’s no one to show their own brutality and professional hollowness to the outside world, to the laymen so overawed by their resolute advocacy to put the country and its politicians on the path of virtue and righteousness. Shame.Recommend

  • Jun

    is there any labour union that can protect rights of employees of news channel ?Recommend

  • Misbahuddin

    @faraz:The problem is Mr. Faraz the employers dont want to part with their profit and profit margin. In order to maintin and increase their profit, in times of recession, they laid down employees at their will. Most employers can maintain their workforce but they dont want to.Recommend

  • http://www.marxist.com Imran

    This is what capitalism is all about. “Treat people like mere tools without souls and extract as much as possible”. This system has destroyed the whole world;Recommend

  • Muhammad Arsalan Butt

    Well i cant say, “i understand” cuz i was never fired as i never had a job but i do realise that it would have been difficult …it’s just not about journalists alone. Our economy as a whole is doomed! Tuff decisions need to be made in critical situations but at least giving a prior notice or a months pay could dampen the shock!
    Well i dont feel sorry cuz i knw after reading ur blogs that u both r going to make it better then b4!Recommend

  • http://pk.linkedin.com/in/muhammadkashifiqbal Muhammad Kashif Iqbal

    Dearest Sadaf behan,

    AoA,

    I am sharing with you one of my personal experience, Feburary 7th, 1997 I joined Mobilink as sales executive and after 18 months they promoted me as Senior Sales Executive. When we launched JAzz in year 1998 I was top performer in our sales team but in year 2001 I recieved a call from Human Resources dept and they told me the management was not happy with your performance and they didn’t ask me for explanation and any thing but they told me plz you will resign from your job either we will terminate your services with our company and that day I will releazied organization doesn’t need only performance its depand upon the mode. After resignition I know how I suffer those days I feel my world is end all friends and colleagues are left me .

    But you my sister you are strongest girl and I remember the day when your father was pass a way. I didn’t know how you sacrifice your time bcoz you are so young I thing you studied in 1st year If I am not wrong .

    This is not a tough time for you I know you and your husband deal with these days very excellently.

    Allah saying in Quran :

    Jo tere naseeb main riziq likh diya hai woh dujhe zaroor mile ga .

    .

    Keep smiling Recommend

  • Junaid

    Brave articleRecommend

  • Akhtar Ali

    Such things do happen in life. But a professional journalist should not be afraid of being fired. I have also experienced this thing. I was working as a trainee reporter for the Daily Times at its Peshawar bureau. When my contract expired I received termination letter.

    Before joining Daily Times I was working for an Afghan news agency. At that time most of my friends advised me not to join DT because salaries were not being paid to their employees on time. I made a tough decision and was fired in the end.

    It was very hard to control me emotions. I knew people would come to know and would say that I was fired because I was incompetent. It really peeves but you have to deal with the situation bravely. Recommend

  • Mujtaba

    Sadaf I am extremely sorry for you and your husband over loosing your jobs. My good wishes are with you, I hope you both get good jobs soon.

    Best of luck,

    MujtabaRecommend